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Opinion

Local opinion writer: Is Scheer in charge?

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Contributed as an opinion piece by Garfield Marks: Who is the de facto conservative leader?

Andrew Scheer is on record as being the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. But who is the de facto leader? Is it Doug Ford, Jason Kenney or Stephen Harper? Who is really running the show or calling the shots?
Premier Doug Ford has shut down the Ontario legislature till after the federal election. Premier Jason Kenney, newly elected of Alberta has set up a $30 million war room, and spends more time talking about Prime Minister Trudeau, than about Alberta wildfires’ 10,000 displaced Albertans. Stephen Harper was key in getting Jason Kenney elected and keeps giving advice and direction to conservatives.
Here in Alberta the Conservatives will win handily but silently. Here in my region, the federal Conservatives could run a sock puppet and win. Our Premier can focus his attention on provincial issues, because I believe, (as I was once told), that the candidates send much of their brochures and donations to candidates in other provinces.
Premier Doug Ford of Ontario is according to recent public opinion polls sinking to levels much lower than former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. I do not think Ontario residents want to be pushed by the Premier in any direction at this time.
Premier Jason Kenney is still carrying the baggage from his leadership race. Workers, staff, and members being fined, $75,000 last I heard, kamikaze candidate and election fraud investigations and being from Alberta are not positive attributes to encourage voters to support Andrew Scheer.
Stephen Harper is a political creature who cannot let go. He is like a hockey player, past his prime but still hungry for the game. Intelligent, political but polarizing and not a good shadow obscuring Andrew Scheer’s leadership.
So who is the real conservative leader? Depends on who you ask, I guess. Just don’t ask me, because I don’t know anymore.

​Garfield Marks​

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Opinion

Former City Council Candidate says taxpayers mislead on tax increase

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Submitted as an Opinion by Calvin Goulet-Jones

1.89% Tax increase you say? I beg to differ.

Every Spring the city sends out a news release stating how much the city has increased our property taxes. Have you noticed something off with your taxes over the last few years? Now before we get into it, note that the city collects taxes in three ways. First they collect your property tax, next they collect the provincial education property tax, and third they collect the piper creek foundation taxation levy which I believe goes to seniors’ housing. The increases I am going to refer to take out the education and piper creek amounts as the city isn’t on control of those and focusses specifically on the tax revenue collected for the city. 

Let’s continue. 

In 2017 (May 1 to be exact) the City put out a news release saying the combined taxation increase was 1.1% for that year
In 2018 (April 30) the City put out a news release saying the combined tax increase was 1.5% for that year
In 2019 (April 29) the City put out a news release saying the combined tax increase was 1.89% for this year.

If you are like me you pay close attention to your taxes. I noticed an extreme variation between what the City News release stated and what we are actually taxed. And in case you’re wondering, no, the variation is not because of property value swings. 

Now hold onto your seat here. 

Red Deer Council (who seem to have smiles plastered on their faces every time they announce the tax rate increase) are either extremely ignorant or purposely deceptive as the property tax increases that you and I receive are not at all what they announce. 

When the city announces what the tax rate increase is, they are not actually announcing the tax rate, they are announcing the Budget Increase. This may seem somewhat similar but it is not especially In a city who’s growth has stagnated, and where businesses are fleeing downtown causing the tax base to decrease substantially. If you lose 2% of your revenue and increase your budget by 2% you have to make up that difference and that is done in the real tax rate which is called the Mill Rate. 

Red Deer’s administrations position (as sent to me in an email) is that “Mill rate changes are not indicative of tax rates”. Nothing could be further from the truth as your taxes are calculated by the Mill rate multiplied by your homes assessed value. When you are paying significantly more per $1000 of your house’s value than what they announce, you know that their statement that the mill rate not being indicative of tax rates is full of bologna. 

Lets look deeper where you will see Red Deer’s Mill rate increasing since the beginning of the largest recession our province has seen in a generation. The increases are mind blowing. 

Unbeknownst to many the 1.89% announced this year does not reflect the actual increases. The actual Mill rate increase was not 1.89% (remember this is just the city portion) it was a whopping 4.85%. That’s right,but still barely scratching the surface. In 2018, Red Deer’s 1.5% increase announcement was actually a 4.323% Mill rate increase. In 2017, the city’s 1.1% announcement was actually a 4.611% increase! 

To give some context Red Deer’s Population growth since 2015 has officially shrunk, we recorded 100807 people in 2015. The latest data has us at 99,832. Inflation since 2015 has been 6.21%, and Albertas GDP since 2015 has grown by less than 1%. The popular line during elections is that we are going to tax population growth + inflation. Well that only works if you actually follow through. The actual tax increases we have experienced since 2015 have been nearly THREE TIMES inflation + population growth. Since 2015 Red Deer residents have seen a whopping 17.014% increase, which is a 10.8% higher increase beyond inflation and population growth and it appears to me that council believes they have done a good job here. What a joke. 

Red Deerians know full well how hard this recession has hit us. Many of us are easily down 10% in our earnings and many more are down 20%, 30%, some even 40% in their yearly earnings since 2015. This doesn’t even include those who have been affected by unemployment. Council owes it to Red Deerians to do better and frankly Red Deerians owe it to themselves to ensure that in 2021 more than just 29% of the electorate show up to vote.

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Opinion

Local blogger asks, “Should the City hold referendums to gauge public opinion on ‘big’ decisions”

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Submitted as an Opinion by Garfield Marks

A long time resident and home owner suggested that the city should start having referendums before making big decisions.
This came up over the recent Canada Games, and some very questionable expenditures.
The million dollar artwork welcoming people to Red Deer with attacks focusing on the costs, location and the lack of transparencies and seemingly deceptive manner of getting it approved.
Questions about any cost/benefit analysis being done or publicized. Comments about empty restaurants during the games. Many comments about the debts left behind.
The college may be left with huge debts that they cannot pay off without laying off employees, cutting hours and or programs. The Gary W. Harris facility has come up several times when discussing the debt legacy of the winter games.
So if businesses, store owners, restaurants, and residents did not see any return on hosting the winter games, except perhaps the hotels, would we do it again? Should we have a referendum?
Before we spend nearly a million dollars on a piece of art, should we have a referendum?
I would really like to know what the real costs of hosting events like the winter games. How much debt are we carrying? What expenditures were made under obscure and omnibus resolutions, associated with the games?
The Westerner noted that they lost $151,000 hosting the finals rodeo and that was minor compared to the Winter Games and the art piece and then the fact that Calgary had a referendum about seeking a future Olympic Games and the citizens said no. Will we say no, if given the facts and the opportunity to host the Canada Games again?
Should the city start having referendums? It is our money. It is our city. Perhaps we should?

​Garfield Marks​

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